All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

31 Days of Bipolar: Days 12 & 13. The good, the bad and the ugly

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Day 12. Who was/is your favourite doctor (any kind) and why?
Day 13. Who was your least favourite doctor and why?

doctor

I’ve decided to answer these two prompts together, not because I’m trying to rush through the challenge, but because I like things being in balance. The good with the bad, the yin with the yang, etc. etc. Over the years that I’ve been seeking treatment for my mental health issues (the first doctor I saw about it was in 2001) I’ve had many (many) bad experiences with doctors, in fact, I’ve had far more bad experiences than good. But the chief suspect, the most despicable example of a “doctor” that I’ve ever come across was a psychiatrist I encountered in December 2011.

We got off to a bad start. The first thing he ever said to me was “it’s impossible to suffer from multiple mental illnesses” (referring to my previous diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder, social anxiety and PTSD) and when I questioned him on this, he informed me “how am I supposed to know what to treat?” Now, my sister had received a multiple diagnosis twenty years earlier in the mid-nineties, and I had received a multiple diagnosis on multiple occasions over several years, so I wanted to scream at him “you treat them all you dumb ass!” but I didn’t, as my anxiety prevented it.

Things deteriorated from there. He informed me, very matter of factly, that I should have understood the complexities of my sister’s mental illness upon her initial diagnosis and therefore it was my fault I allowed her illness to affect me the way it had. Now, I was twelve when my sister was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. No-one explained to me what it was. No-one explained to me what was happening. And no-one explained to me why she was all of a sudden screaming at me for being contagious. But, according to this “psychiatrist” I should have instantaneously understood what anorexia nervosa is (I’ve met adults who don’t understand it), how it affects someone (I know many adults that don’t understand what anorexia nervosa can do) and what can happen as a result (again, I know adults who couldn’t tell you this). So how was I supposed to understand it at the tender age of twelve? According to this “psychiatrist” I should have done, and because I didn’t, he blamed me for the onset of my depression.

If you think things couldn’t get much worse, they did. He went on to inform me that I couldn’t possibly be suffering from bipolar affective disorder because (a) I had never been hospitalised and (b) I didn’t have any children. Yes, you read that right. My “psychiatrist” informed me that I could not possibly be suffering from bipolar affective disorder because I hadn’t fathered any children. A symptom that I have never seen listed in the DSM, but according to this “psychiatrist” exists. Also, his obsession with my lack of hospitalization ran through the entire appointment. According to him if I had bipolar affective disorder I would have been hospitalised at some point. The simple fact that I should have been hospitalised but the health services let me down, escaped him. In fact, I can think of six occasions in 2007 alone that I should have been hospitalised, not including the occasion that I basically begged a mental health team to hospitalize me because I was terrified I was going to kill myself, but they refused because “I wasn’t a danger to other people”. But, this “psychiatrist” ignored all of that.

And when you think things couldn’t get any worse, you’d be wrong, for this “psychiatrist” ended our consultation with the quality line “you’re playacting mental illness in order to escape homelessness”. That’s right. When I was thirteen years old I decided to begin self-harming during a nasty depressive episode because I knew that in fifteen years time I would end up homeless on the other side of the world! This “psychiatrist” didn’t take PTSD into account (at all) despite my abusive relationship, being raped or living on the streets for three years! And given that most people who are homeless are suffering from at least one mental illness (remember, multiple diagnoses are impossible) to state that I was playacting mental illness was grossly ignorant and borderline dangerous.

He ended the consultation by immediately stopping all medication that had been prescribed to me a month earlier by a different psychiatrist. One who had taken my history seriously and medicated accordingly. The primary medication I was taking at the time was lithium, which anyone with any knowledge of this drug will know, is incredibly dangerous to just stop all of a sudden. But that’s exactly what this “psychiatrist” did.

The man (I can’t bring myself to call him a doctor) was ignorant, uncaring, arrogant, borderline sociopathic, narcissistic and downright abusive. He caused weeks of untold pain and torment, triggered a suicide attempt and, because of the lack of medication, caused me to become delusional and psychotic. Because of him I refuse to have anything to do with mental health services and psychiatrists in general. Even though I desperately need one. Because of him I do not trust any mental health or medical professional. Because of him my mental health has suffered. Period.

On the flip-side to this “psychiatrist” is my current GP, who is easily one of the best doctors I’ve ever had, as evidenced by the first appointment I had with him. My support worker at the time was in attendance and the topic of hearing voices came up. I explained to him that I heard multiple voices and, although they caused me grief, were not something I was worried too much about as they had been with me since I was a teenager. He didn’t try to medicate them. He didn’t tell me I needed to stop communicating with them. He just accepted that they were a part of who I was. This non-medical approach he took to my voices endeared me to the man almost instantly, and over the last two years, we’ve created a wonderful relationship.

He monitors my medication effectively, constantly informing me of any changes and what side effects I should expect if he introduces a new medication. He keeps up to date with blood tests, treats my illnesses with respect and doesn’t allow them to define who I am as a person. On most occasions that I see him, he remembers what we had been talking about during our last consultation, preventing me from recapping what we had talked about, which is a tremendous relief to my anxiety. He is caring. He is compassionate. He is kind. He is understanding. He is everything that the “psychiatrist” was not.

If it weren’t for this doctor I wouldn’t have the support that I have, and I will be forever thankful for finding him. Having quality support from medical professionals is quintessential to someone’s recovery from mental illness. We all need someone we can trust to talk to about what is happening to us. That “psychiatrist” was not this person. My current GP is. Without him I would be nothing. And I hope everyone suffering from mental ill-health can find someone they can rely on in the way that I rely on him.

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